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For many years, Google offers this amazing service called Street View, where they show us full panorama photos taken by special cars that drive on a number of roads, even the most remote ones.

It's free of charge for the regular user, but Google sells the images to who wants to use them in large scale applications.

It seems to be a sound business model, but what bothers me is the aparent lack of competition out there. Google seems to be the only company that take it seriously. I live in a big city and I've never seen a car from another company taking photos.

Is there any evidence that Street View is profitable? If so, is there some fundamental barrier that stops other companies from joining the party?

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  • $\begingroup$ your example remind me about the example of a software called Winrar. People can use it normally but the large-scale organization need to buy the code of usage legally. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 0:06

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On profitability:
From Investopedia (which is a poor source for economic principles, but hopefully acceptable for news items):

...Google does not report specific figures identifying the financial performance of its Maps product...

So not even Google Maps' profitability is known to the public.

Note that Google Street View is a subunit of Google Maps, and it is not easy to measure the profitability of a business subunit. There are a lot of fixed costs, and it is not clear how these should be divided between the subunits. Also, I frequently use Maps and sometimes I also use Street View. Is my use of Maps driven by their Street View function or vice versa? So neither the revenue nor the cost side is quite clear cut.


On competitors:
A list of mapping services that offer the street view function. The big ones are

  • Google Street View is the most comprehensive street view service in the world. It provides street view for more than 85 countries worldwide.
  • Apple Look Around provides street view of parts of five countries.
  • The Mapillary project collects crowdsourced images from its users, which are licensed under a CC BY-SA license.
  • KartaView (formerly OpenStreetCam) was created by TeleNav and is very similar to Mapillary both by using crowdsourced imagery and for licensing the images as CC BY-SA.

P.s.: My country is not on the Apple Look Around country list and I have seen their mapping car.

P.s.2: Is it Google Maps' profitability or Google Maps's profitability?

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the Wikipedia article. I've totally missed that. But notice they are all quite different from Streer View, either in how they collect the photos or their scale. Why do big companies challenge Google in almost all their products except this one? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ +1 great answer regarding "Is my use of Maps driven by their Street View function or vice versa? So neither the revenue nor the cost side is quite clear cut" By the way, I just forget the name of a phenomenon that "A vaues B but maybe B also cause A", could you please kinly remind me? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ @NoviceMindset Unfortunately I cannot tell from your explanation what phenomenon you are thinking of. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 5:50

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